Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

World Building

When we sit down to write a novel, we start with a blank page. The world we create can take any shape we like. It doesn’t need to have our rules. It doesn’t need to have our history. The only constraint is our lack of imagination. Oh, but what a constraint this is. Our imaginations aren’t very good at conjuring up worlds dissimilar to the ones we know. When we create new lifeforms, they tend to look and act pretty much like us. When we predict the future, we tend…

Changing the World

Zoom out with your mind for a moment and picture planet Earth from a distance. Note the clusters of light at major cities on the night side. Picture the airplanes and container ships slowly creeping vast distances. Cars like ants along their sugar highways. Everyone jostling and bustling and hustling. When I do this, I see humanity mostly obsessed with pulling ores out of the ground and piling them up to make cities. If you were trying to make sense of an ant colony, you would see them doing the…

How to Build a Self-Conscious Machine (And Why It’s Probably a Silly Idea)

     The Coolest Thing in the Universe The universe is full of some very cool stuff: neutron stars that weigh a ton a teaspoon; supermassive black holes that grip even light in their iron fists; infinitesimal neutrinos that stream right through solid steel; all the bizarre flora and fauna found right here on planet Earth. It might be the ultimate in egoism, but of all the known things in the universe, the most amazing is surely the lump of goo inside our skulls. That lump of goo knows about…

Eusocial Bifurcation: Why Not Getting Along Makes Perfect Sense

Does it feel like we’re at war with ourselves? Like the world is split into two groups, and we can’t stop fighting? It might feel like this is getting worse and worse, despite the civil wars and world wars of the past. But what if the constant fighting across these great societal divides is not a bug in our genetic programming? What if it’s a feature? It has been said that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. This was said, in fact, by an Eastern…

Dispatches from Silo 18

When I wrote about the silos in WOOL, one of the ideas I wanted to capture is the insanity of walling ourselves off from each other, and all the trillions we spend defending from and attacking one another, when we’re all in the same green-and-blue space-boat. Viewed from afar, it’s absolutely bonkers. Yet we persist. Travel can be antidote to bigotry. I recently spent over a month in Cuba, which is the most silo-like country I’ve ever visited. Not much has changed in the 16 years between my visits. The…